Public official who helped approve $284m for Red Wings now working for (you guessed it) Red Wings

Hey, remember George Jackson, the city of Detroit development chief who really hated Tiger Stadium and anyone who loved it and who helped push through the Red Wings‘ new arena plans? What’s he doing these days, anyway?

Jackson went on to start his own real estate consulting firm, Ventra Group. In November, Ventra started work under a contract with the Ilitch family’s arena development company. That same month, Jackson hired a former top lieutenant at the DEGC, Brian Holdwick, who also was on the lead negotiating team for the city on the arena deal.

For some critics, the contract and players involved give the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Gee, no, ya think? Pushing for $284.5 million in public subsidies for a new hockey arena, quitting your public-sector job, then going to work for the hockey arena and being paid out of that same $284.5 million … I can’t see why anyone would think that would appear to be a conflict of interest. Or why Jackson would need to write a typically cranky and defensive press statement about the whole matter:

“I left public service well over a year before my firm accepted a private client,” he said in the written statement. “Why should I be denied the opportunity to earn a living in my hometown, when I have skills, experience and knowledge that can be put to good use — and will create jobs and opportunities for other Detroiters?”

I don’t know, maybe because this is exactly why “revolving door” laws exist, so as to insure that government officials are doing what’s best for the public, and not what’s best for their next client? But, hey, “jobs and opportunities,” so let’s not think about that too hard.

10 comments on “Public official who helped approve $284m for Red Wings now working for (you guessed it) Red Wings

  1. Gotta love the comments defending him on the Free Press web site using the “it was more than a year” excuse. So, at 364 days it’s sleazy but at 366, not so much?

  2. The article is a crock of nonsense. Jackson and Holdwick earned excellent reputations in their time with DEGC. They did outstanding work to foster deals that brought major investment and jobs into the city when nobody believed it could be turned around. The man is profiting from his expertise and experience in development in Detroit, which last I checked is not a crime in a capitalistic society.

    Investment in the arena district is about to hit $1.2 billion (they already have six This companies bidding to build a new hotel) so this $284.5 million in public subsidies (where the DDA tax on downtown businesses is exactly what it was intended to do) will end up being a hell of an investment for the city of Detroit, who are not using a single dollar from their general fund. Not to mention there’s a good chance the Pistons will join the Wings in the future and add an extra 40+ events.

  3. The same thing happened in Santa Clara.
    Steve Lodge, our elected police chief, campaigned heavily for the 49ers stadium. 6 months after passage of the stadium ballot measure, he retired – two years before his term of office was up – and went to work for the 49ers.

    Fortunately, the conflicts of interest in Santa Clara are being investigated by the Civil Grand Jury:

  4. @James

    I’m pulling for the Pistons to move there as well. What’s the latest scuttle? The last thing I saw was Silver, Duggan and Gores discussing “downtown options” when Gores was working on a separate project but that also involved the pie in the sky 2nd arena which sounds like a leverage ploy to get a better deal from the Ilitch family.

  5. “The man is profiting from his expertise and experience in development in Detroit, which last I checked is not a crime in a capitalistic society.”

    Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Applies to both the hirer and the hiree in this case.

  6. As I recall a Wall Street Journal article July 12 (can’t remember year) pointed out a similar thing happened with Cincinnati. This is conflict of interest white collar crime that should be punishable as racketeering, corruption, etc, even jail time, if that is what it takes to protect taxpayer interests.

  7. @James,

    The worst thing you can do with these things is keep citing a top dollar “investment number” as evidence that great things are going to happen. Take a look at the Allentown, PA story, where a “billion dollar” investment is a saddlecar to half the city mayor’s office pleading guilty to the FBI.

    Point is–these sorts of arrangements (TIFs, etc.) have huge potential for abuse of authority and worse, so keeping a wall as much as allowed between the public and private sectors is key.

  8. Here is the 2011 article I was thinking about. A former county commissioner was hired by one of the Cincinnati teams after the deal.